Cabe column: Leaving theater feeling like a wonder woman
I don’t care for superhero movies, but I loved “Wonder Woman.”
I saw the buzzed-about movie in a packed theater on Saturday night, and aside from Halloween costumes and vague pop culture references, it was my introduction to the character.
I didn’t know her backstory, in what era she existed or that she had a connection to Greek mythology. I had no idea she grew up on a paradise island of Amazon women. In fact, because of my total lack of understanding of her, I never thought of her as a feminist icon. The lasso and outfit made her seem more like an object for men to fantasize about than a strong, independent and complex woman.
As most people already know, my preconceived notion of her couldn’t have been more wrong.
I was so excited about the feminist message of the story and character that I can’t even tell if “Wonder Woman” was a particularly good movie from a more objective perspective (most critics seem to think it is, though). All I know is I left that theater feeling like I could do anything, and women and girls of all ages need that feeling right about now.
It got me thinking about the importance of representation. “If she can see it, she can be it” is a catchy slogan, but it’s also just plain true. Elements of popular culture like movies, TV shows, commercials, etc., can be huge factors in shaping society. If the characters we see on our screens fall into certain patterns, our mindsets will fall into those patterns, too. That’s the problem with so many movies and TV shows that present women as one-dimensional, relationship-obsessed sidekicks or any other of a slew of stereotypes.
And that’s why seeing “Wonder Woman” was so, well, wonderful. She breaks all the stereotypical patterns of female leads in movies. She and her people are strong, courageous, smart, funny, peace-loving members of a tight-knit community. They’re also ready and able to defend themselves when that community is threatened. There are no damsels in distress in “Wonder Woman.” The love story is one built on mutual respect and admiration, and it isn’t overblown or the main plot point for the female character.
I’m not arguing that this is the first time a movie succeeded in illustrating the complexities of strong women. But it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like it to, so seeing it meant a lot to me.
It seems it’s meant a lot to many other people, too. A list of kindergarteners’ reactions to the movie has gone viral on Twitter. The teacher said one little girl proclaimed, “When I grow up, I want to speak hundreds of languages like Diana.” A boy who was obsessed with Iron Man asked his parents for a new Wonder Woman lunch box. One little girl came to class with a printed list of every female superhero and her powers — preparation for deciding roles at recess.
I’ve seen the movie’s effect on people in my own life, too. A male friend of mine was chatting with me on Facebook about it and said, “It’s fantastic. Especially as a minority, I was touched” (in the scheme of blockbusters, “Wonder Woman” is very diverse). The male friend I saw the movie with felt almost as empowered as the three women in our group, and we’re still gushing about it and its message days later.
I’m glad to see firsthand positive effects this movie has had on some of the men in my life. But it’s clear who the film is meant to touch the most: women and girls who are thirsty for great representation of female capability. In other words, me. I’m here to tell you “Wonder Woman” delivers.
Jessica Cabe is a former Post Independent arts and entertainment editor.